James Allan, Garrick Professor of Law, University of Queensland is on sabbatical at the University of San Diego School of Law and writes …
I tried a little experiment here at my sabbatical university in California. I asked a few members of the law school (from across the political spectrum) to guess which country in the world wanted to: stop speech that offended, insulted or humiliated some people; that for other matters applying to more potential people, just humiliated them; that reversed the onus of proving when this had happened so that the self-proclaimed victim could basically just sit back and force the accused to prove he hadn’t done this (good luck on that); that makes defendants pay their own legal bills, even if they end up winning, and more.
I got guesses ranging from various South American countries through African ones, and on to Singapore and godawful authoritarian countries in Asia and elsewhere. Not a single one of them guessed Australia. It presumably never entered their heads.
When I told them they couldn’t believe it.
As I said, it’s embarrassing being an Australian right now. And what we all need, all of us regardless of our other political views on other issues, is to fight this awful government proposal tooth and nail.
Sure, there’s been a partial backdown. But it’s only partial. And sure, Ms Roxon is now gone. But even what remains is an egregious attack on free speech. Mr. Abbott and the Coalition need to do more than just oppose this bill. They need to promise they will go to a double dissolution election if necessary to rid us of an outrageous mess.
And that cannot be all. For there already exists s.18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and all of that needs to go too, however much certain lobby groups that matter to the Coalition might be opposed to its repeal. This is about a key matter of principle. Mr. Abbott and Mr. Brandis, seeing where complacency on free speech has led us, need to be firm and make it clear that the whole proposed and existing edifice must go.
If anyone complains that that’s an extremist position, you can tell him or her that in California there would still be much more scope for people to speak their minds than in an Australia purged of these odious Nicola Roxon proposals and purged of s.18C. Even then you would be more constrained in what you can say in Australia than anywhere in the US.
The entire article can be read <HERE>.